Tuesday, April 28, 2009

BBQ beef sandwich, asparagus, and home fries.

Spring is here. And we all know what that means.

the obligatory asparagus shot.

Except that I still had a pound of stew meat in my freezer on Saturday, collecting a layer of frost, a heavy reminder of the blankets of food that kept me warm all winter. And I'm grateful for that food, really. But I'm done with it. I had to get rid of that meat. And I certainly didn't want stew.

simmer til tender.

What to make with stew meat that's not stew? I found this sandwich at Simply Recipes and decided that a barbecue beef sandwich, sloppy and messy between two buns and just begging to be served at a backyard party in the middle of summer, would be a nice transition from winter to spring.

And I could serve it with asparagus.

shredding the beef.

Elise's recipe called for a 3-pound chuck roast, but after cutting the rest of the ingredients in half, a pound of stew meat worked just fine. After simmering for about two and half hours, I used two forks to pull apart the meat into fine shreds. Then I returned the shredded meat to the pot to warm through while I prepared the asparagus.

asparagus drizzled with lemon.

The asparagus was simple -- I just heated some olive oil in a skillet, dropped in a handful of trimmed asparagus, and rolled the spears around until they were crisp-tender, not even three minutes. Added salt, pepper, and lots of lemon. I am obsessed with lemony vegetables.

asparagus on a rainy day. hello, spring.

But then I realized that Murdo doesn't like asparagus, and that there were no chips in the apartment (I try not to buy them to avoid eating entire bags in one sitting), and he'd need something else to eat with his sandwich.

Enter these home fries.

crispy home fries!

Pan-fried in olive oil and butter, seasoned generously with salt and pepper, these home fries are so simple and delicious -- crisp-chewy on the outside and soft potato-ey on the inside. I might just start making them when I get potato chip cravings. And then I'd have to stop buying potatoes altogether.

BBQ beef sandwich with asparagus and home fries

And the sandwich? Well, I think I'll definitely have to get more stew meat, even if winter is over...

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Weekend breakfast.

It was a nice weekend.

saturday morning

Rain, sunshine, warm breezes, good people, and good food.

sunday breakfast.

I can't get enough.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Mango and mixed-berry tart.

mango berry tart.
We ate this tart on Easter Sunday.

a beautiful mess
And my camera made love to it.

The photos have been sitting in a folder on my desktop since then.

berries meet mango.

berries loooooove mango.
A few days ago, I drafted a blog post with these pictures.

cinnamon sprinkling.
No words.

mango berry tart.
Because I don't know what to say about this tart
that the pictures don't already reveal.

hi, i'm a slice of tart, eat me.
My sister, Jenny, gets all the credit. I just watched, and ate, and sat back.

Easter Sunday dessert.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Mom's pancit recipe.


I always feel really cool when I make pancit, probably because not many people other than Filipino moms know how to cook pancit. It's like having a secret key to someplace really special, and no one else can get in without you. And everyone wants in. Friends, I'm giving you the key.

Filipino cooking isn't an exact science, and the recipe below certainly isn't an exact formula. Add vegetables and seasonings according to your own tastes. Pancit has a very mild flavor, so be sure not to go crazy with the soy sauce. Pork can be substituted for the chicken, or added with the chicken if you're into that sort of thing. Make it vegetarian by eliminating the meat and oyster sauce and using vegetable broth instead of chicken broth. Add tofu if you want.

pancit, before the noodles

Be prepared to become very popular after sharing pancit with others. People will try it at a party and spend the rest of the night saying, "Who made this? It's awesome." And then they'll track you down and corner you and invite to their house next weekend. They weren't planning on throwing a party next weekend, but they will if you come. Just be sure to bring some pancit.

Pancit Bihon
This feeds a lot of people. I suggest throwing a party and serving this dish. Or bring it to a potluck. Everyone will love you. 

You can find Bihon rice noodles at any Filipino grocery store and most Asian grocery stores. If you can't find them, you can substitute angel hair pasta, broken in half and cooked in the chicken broth/water/soy sauce mixture, below. I often use angel hair if I'm making pancit as a quick weeknight meal for me and Murdo, when I want to skip the step of soaking the noodles and reduce the quantity significantly.

Chinese sausage is a very fatty pork sausage that adds a salty bite to the dish. It can be found at most Asian grocery stores, usually in the frozen meat section. 

I've also made this dish vegetarian by using veggie broth instead of chicken broth, soy sauce instead of oyster sauce, omitting all the meat, and adding firm tofu (marinated in soy sauce, sauteed beforehand in garlic, and added along with the rest of the veggies). 

1 package (16 ounces) Bihon rice noodles
2 tbs vegetable oil
3 medium carrots, sliced thinly into 1-inch matchsticks
1/2 medium cabbage, sliced
2-3 celery stalks, sliced
2 cups pea pods, sliced diagonal
1 medium onion, sliced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 can chicken broth
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup oyster sauce (can be substituted with 1/4 cup soy sauce)
1 chicken breast, sliced small and seasoned with lemon pepper
1/2 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined with tails off (optional)
3 links of Chinese sausage, thinly sliced (this is optional but I strongly recommend adding it)
lemon wedges or lemon pepper (these are definitely not optional)

In a large pot or wok, brown garlic and Chinese sausage in oil. Add the onion and chicken. When the chicken juices start to run, add the shrimp and cook until almost done. Add oyster sauce and black pepper and stir to coat. Stir in pea pods, carrots, and celery, and cook until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in cabbage and cook another 2-3 minutes, until cabbage is slightly wilted. Season with a generous squeeze of lemon.

Meanwhile, soak the rice noodles in water for about 5 minutes, or until soft. In a large pot, boil chicken broth, water and soy sauce. Add the rice noodles and lower the heat. Stir to keep the noodles from sticking. When soft, spoon the noodles into the veggie mixture, reserving any extra broth. Toss the noodles, veggies and meats together, adding more broth as needed.

Serve with lemon wedges.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Ziti al forno.

ziti, baked.

If I had to pick one food I can't stand, it might have to be pralines. I don't even know what a praline is. Is it a flavor? A nut? A type of sugar? All I know is that I used to like pralines and cream ice cream, and when my mom found out, she bought a crapload. For a while, there was always a new carton of pralines and cream in the freezer, until finally Jenny and I got so sick of the stuff that the same freezer-burned carton remained for years. And now, whenever I hear the word pralines, I kind of shudder.

But this post isn't about pralines. It's about ziti. Baked ziti. Just like too much of a good thing can make a good thing become a very, very bad thing, just the right amount can make a good thing become special.

Of all the foods that I've ever cooked for him, ziti al forno is Murdo's favorite. I can count on one hand how many times I've made this dish, and I can't even begin to count how many times he's asked me to make it. The first time was after he had the ziti al forno at Biaggi's. He asked me to recreate it, and a quick Google search for Biaggi's ziti al forno turned up a simple recipe. I wasn't sure if it really was Biaggi's actual recipe, since their menu describes the ziti baked in a lobster cream sauce. The recipe I found had no mention of lobster. But I tried it anyway. And I can't remember the last time we went back to Biaggi's.

One of the reasons I don't make this dish very often is because it calls for ingredients I don't often have on hand. And I have to measure stuff when I make it, and I hate dirtying more dishes than I have to. Plus, it makes a ton. But I decided to make it last Friday because I had the day off and I had the time and why not? It's been a while.

This ziti is rich and creamy; the prosciutto adds a salty bite and the shrimp adds a sweet, tender touch. I added peas for a burst of vegetable and color. And look! I've got the recipe to share with you!

Ziti al Forno
adapted from Biaggi's, courtesy of The News & Observer

1 pound ziti
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup red onion, diced
4 ounces prosciutto, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced
8 ounces shrimp, tail-off, peeled and deveined, cut in half
1 cup frozen peas (optional)
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
3-4 scallions, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 9- by 13-inch baking dish and set aside.

Boil ziti in a large pot of salted water according to package directions, checking for doneness about 2 minutes before the time called for. Drain and set aside.

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and prosciutto. Saute until onions are lightly caramelized, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and chicken, and saute until chicken is about halfway done, about 3 minutes. Add shrimp and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until shrimp are just done, about 3 minutes.

Deglaze pan with wine. Cook until liquid is reduced by half, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the cream and cook until reduced by 1/4, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add frozen peas. Stir in the Parmesan and scallions. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Stir in the cooked ziti. Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring to prevent the pasta from sticking. Transfer pasta and sauce into prepared baking dish. Top with the shredded mozzarella. Bake until lightly browned, 15 to 20 minutes.

Makes 8 servings. (I halved this recipe and had enough to feed 2, plus 3 servings of leftovers.)

Friday, April 10, 2009

Friday breakfast

I love days off from work. And I love breakfast.

friday breakfast

And I love posting pictures of my breakfast, as you probably already know. In fact, you might even be sick of my breakfast posts. But the productive day I have planned for this Friday off includes cooking! An actual meal! Besides breakfast!

Mmmm. It's going to be a good weekend.

friday breakfast

(As you can see from the above photo, I switched to a spoon mid-meal. I've been eating a lot of food with spoons lately. Forks just aren't doing it for me anymore. Or maybe I've just forgotten how to eat properly.)

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Flowers and Walker Bros. and winter in April.

It snowed here today.

Yesterday, I spent a few hours looking at flowers, very few flowers, most of them just babies taking a peek from below. It was a chilly day, warm in the sun and blue in the sky, and I longed for spring.

And then it just had to go and snow. I'm not surprised. If you can believe it, I'm not that disheartened by it, either. Maybe because I've been expecting it all along. But mostly because it makes me appreciate days like yesterday, at the botanic gardens, with my family, after an afternoon of shopping and a late lunch.

Ahh. Lunch.

eggs benedict.

We went to Walker Bros., where I ordered eggs Benedict with spinach, mushrooms, crispy bacon bits, and a side of fruit and hash browns. It was perfect.


Jenny ordered chipotle chicken crepes with potato pancakes, and my parents shared a huge apple pancake.

apple pancake, destroyed.

I think I could live without winter altogether. Without the heavy boots, and the numb fingertips and faces, and the snow that just keeps falling and falling and falling. But then there are days like yesterday, that pop up here and there to remind us that yes, flowers and color and sunny skies do exist, and they'll come back to stay eventually. If I lived without winter, would I appreciate these days less? Would a sunny day with blue skies be just like any other day?

a late lunch at walker bros.

I'm not so sure. At this point, I feel like I've survived enough winter for me to appreciate a lifetime of warm weather -- every single day of it. I'm counting on May. I have high hopes for May. The comfort foods will just have to keep me warm for this one last stretch.

And then...

Friday, April 3, 2009

Greens and eggs on pretty plates.

eggs kale onion avocado.

and with spinach.

I love how a pretty plate can brighten a meal. Even the same old greens and eggs (top photo is kale, bottom is spinach) that I've been cooking for breakfast lately gets a fresh touch from these pretty plates. They were Christmas gifts from Jenny; she got them at Anthropologie and I'm going shopping for more tomorrow!

(The Cabbage Patch Kid mug is the same one I used to drink cocoa in when I was little. Today it was Starbucks instant coffee. Oh, how I've grown.)

Hope you have a great weekend!

p.s. Happy Jack Eats is now on Twitter. Follow me! If you're into that sort of thing...